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Sky Blue edges Washington, nears playoffs

Sky Blue's Monica Ocampo has scored the only goal in two 1-0 wins over the Spirit. (Photo Copyright Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Sky Blue FC moved to the cusp of a playoff berth with a hard fought, 1-0 victory over the Washington Spirit in the home finale in front of 2,172 at Yurcak Field on Saturday.  Monica Ocampo netted the lone goal in 58th minute off a gorgeous buildup.

“I think five or six different players touched the ball,” Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra said.  Sophie Schmidt was credited with the assist.

The win moves Sky Blue (10-6-4) to 34 pts., trailing the Thorns for 2nd place on goal difference.  They need a draw Sunday in Chicago to secure a playoff berth and could get in before that if the Red Stars do not beat the Spirit on Wednesday.  As for the Spirit (1-14-4, 7 pts.) they have now dropped seven-straight and are winless in their last 13.

The goal was the only blip on the night for Chantel Jones who stepped into the first team when Ashlyn Harris tightened up during warm-ups.

“We went through the pre-game routine and Ash was in there and she went to pass a ball and said ‘nope that’s it,’” Jones said.  “So I was like ‘okay I’m ready.’  I was a little jittery at first, it’s natural to be nervous at first.”

“Jones was absolutely incredible,” Spirit interim coach Mark Parsons said.  “But we know that.  We have two outstanding goalkeepers.  At any point we know we can call on them.”

Both teams made lineup changes to account for injuries and having played Wednesday.  Sky Blue started Manya Makoski at right back and used Brittany Bock as a target forward.  The Spirit tightened up the midfield by using Lori Lindsey and Diana Matheson in more central roles.

“We played a bit different tonight, we wanted to be a bit more defensive and protect ourselves,” Parsons said.  “I thought we were effective for 45 minutes.  For 15-20 minutes credit to Sky Blue; (after halftime) they came out guns blazing.  Players that weren’t getting two or three yards in the first half suddenly were getting two or three yards.  And we couldn’t get the ball for 10 or 15 minutes.  That goal came at the end of that spell, and then it just turned into a bit of chaos.”

The goal was Ocampo’s sixth of the season and first since she scored to beat the Spirit 1-0 on July 6.  That had been the last Sky Blue win and the last time a Sky Blue player had scored.  The only other goal since was an own goal.

“It was kind of unlucky, she was in the right place at the right time,” Jones said.  “I came out to close the space and she beat me to the space and I just saw Ocampo slide the ball in.  It sucked.”

Bock left the game at halftime with an injured shoulder.  Gabarra said she took the injury last weekend against Kansas City.

“I’m just glad we got the three points,” he said.

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